As of mid-April, at least 135 Tennesseans have died of COVID-19. And for most, a funeral is not an option. So WPLN News is launching a project to remember the lives lost during this pandemic. Betty Jo Dove, of Gallatin, died April 8.
Betty Dove’s children hadn’t seen her in-person for weeks when she passed. Visitors weren’t allowed, even for patients who are dying. So Staci Thomas consoled herself by pulling up the most recent voicemails from her mother — shopping lists for Walmart.
“She’d say, ‘Staci, I need this, and I’m going to need this.’ And I’m not going to get rid of them,” Thomas says. “I listened to them the day she died. I’m just going to keep them on there.”
Thomas says her mother could be demanding when she and her siblings were growing up. But it’s part of what she’ll miss.
“She was a good mom. But she was strict,” Thomas says.
Her mother’s imprint came out when Thomas was raising her own kids, who’d ask why the house had to be so clean, or why they had to say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.”
Thomas pointed them to their grandmother.
Betty Dove was just 68 when she died, but she had already been at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing for five years. She’d survived two decades of health trouble, with renal failure and heart disease.
“I said she was my cat with nine-plus lives,” Thomas says.
Her daughter is a nurse herself. And the family didn’t like putting Betty Dove in a nursing home. But they tried to make it homey, bringing in a portrait of an old ship, like the model sailboats she collected through much of her life.
Then in late March, residents started falling ill.
“When they told me she was positive with the COVID-19, I was scared that she wouldn’t pull through this one,” Thomas says.
She was hospitalized with nearly 100 others from the nursing home. She wasn’t getting any better, so they moved her to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she died.
There’s been no memorial service.
Betty Dove wanted to be cremated and laid to rest with her father in Camden. So once the family can get together safely, Thomas says that’s what they’ll do.
“She’s going to be buried, exactly what she wanted, on top of her dad,” Thomas says.
But before that, Thomas’s family has another death to deal with. Her aunt contracted COVID-19 at the same nursing home. She passed away on Wednesday.
If you have a loved one you’d like to be remembered on-air during this pandemic, please send us a note to [email protected]